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Choosing a Cooling Unit

Purchasing the right wine cooling unit for your space should result in years of temperature and humidity control inside your wine cellar, quiet, low-maintenance performance, and affordable operating costs.

In order to select the cooling unit that fits your needs, it's important to consider the following factors before buying:

Factor #1: Sizing

Most cooling units have nominal sizes corresponding to generic cellar volumes, e.g. 1,000 cubic feet. However, these sizes are based on assumptions about:

  • The type of insulation used in the cellar
  • The ambient temperature outside the cellar
  • The length of ducting
  • Whether the cellar is residential or commercial

Be careful about relying on the nominal size without considering these standard assumptions, because the actual conditions in your wine cellar may require a more powerful unit.

A better approach is to choose a unit size based on your cellar's thermal load—the amount of energy required to cool a given space to the desired temperature in an hour, measured in BTUH—and not just the size of the space.

Thermal load calculations take into account all the variables that will impact the temperature inside your wine cellar, including insulation, ambient temperature, and desired cellar temperature. At CellarPro, we're happy to figure out your cellar's thermal load for free; just provide some key pieces of information through our online form and we'll do the rest.

Once you know the thermal load of your wine cellar, you'll be able to select the best cooling unit for your project, because all of our cooling units include BTUH ratings in addition to nominal sizes in cubic feet.

Factor #2: Airflow

The hot side of the cooling unit, unless it is a water-cooled unit, must have access to fresh air, referred to as the fresh air intake, in order to operate effectively and generate cooling power inside the cellar.

The hot side of the cooling unit generates hot air exhaust as the fresh air passes over the condenser coils. These airflows—the intake and exhaust—can share a space, provided that sufficient volume exists for the cooling unit's hot air exhaust to dissipate.

Different types of cooling units offer varied solutions to deal with hot air exhaust, as follows:

Self-contained, non-ducted systems: These units are fully-charged and ready to install out of the box. With self-contained units, the hot and cold sides of the cooling unit are combined in one package, on opposite sides of the cooling unit. The cold side will face into the cellar, the hot side into a space adjacent to the cellar.

Split systems: These units are "split" into a hot side, the condensing unit, and a cold side, the evaporator, which are connected by copper tubing, called the line et. Split systems are more expensive to install than self-contained units. However, split systems let you place the condensing unit in a remote location, even outdoors, where sufficient space exists so that the hot exhaust can dissipate without intermingling with the fresh air intake.

Ducted systems: Some split and self-contained units can be ducted, either on the cold side, on the hot side, or both. Ducting allows the air to be moved to and from the cooling unit to a remote location.

With cold-side ducting, the cooling unit could be located away from the cellar, removing any visible equipment from the cellar. With a hot-side ducting, the cooling unit can be located in a small space with limited airflow. Ducting will bring remote air to and/or from the cooling unit.

Regardless of the system you install, hot air exhaust must have room to dissipate so that it does not intermingle with the fresh air intake. If sufficient airflow around the hot side does not exist, you may need to purchase a split or ducted system.

Factor #3: Noise Level

The compressor and fans on the hot side of the cooling unit will generate heat and produce some background noise. Ideally, this side of the unit will be located away from common living spaces.

If your cellar is close to a room in your home, you may prefer a ducted or split system that lets you mitigate the noise by placing the louder, hot exhaust-emitting part of the cooling unit in a remote location.

Factor #4: Unit Cost

Self-contained systems are generally the most affordable to purchase and also to install. They do not require professional installation, and some can be ducted for remote placement or vented to the outdoors. However, the configuration needs of your space may demand a more expensive split or ducted system.

Learn more about cooling unit cost and expenses, including options and upgrades.

Factor #5: Humidification

If your cellar is in a low-humidity locale, like the Rocky Mountains, you may need to add humidity to your cellar. Some cooling units offer a humidification upgrade which, when connected to a water line, adds and maintains humidity inside the cellar based on humidistat settings.

Factor #6: Heating

If the space around your cellar isn't temperature-controlled and drops below your desired cellar temperature, you may need a cooling unit that can also produce heat.

Although most cooling units provide cooling but no heating, some cooling units offer a heating upgrade which will add heat when ambient temperatures drop below your desired cellar temperature.

Still have questions about the process of choosing a cooling unit? Feel free to contact us for advice on finding the right system for your needs.

To contact our support team, email us or call 877.726.8496.

We've put together some basic resources to guide you through the process of choosing a cooling unit and building a cellar.

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